It’s almost that time again…spring training, flowers blooming and of course, taxes.
Despite its regularity, few people welcome the return of the tax deadline, a fact especially true for senior citizens, who are faced with not just complicated new rules and technology but also limited income to pay preparation fees. Thanks to a program funded by the AARP Foundation and grants from the Internal Revenue Service, Mansfield area residents can tackle the daunting task with trained professional for absolutely no cost.
AARP Tax-Aide allows seniors to bring all applicable paperwork to a private appointment at the Mansfield Activities Center and sit down one-on-one with a AARP certified tax counselor who will prepare the complete return and file it on the spot for them, all at no charge.
The program is designed to help low-income seniors but is open to all ages, cities of residence and has no maximum income limit, unlike many other similar services that restrict based on wealth. AARP offers the service at locations across the country, often in libraries and community centers, but the Mansfield location is one of few in this area where counselors take specific appointments rather than first-come, first-serve attention which often leads to long lines and waiting.
“I’ve found in my 10 years of helping seniors with this program that the vast majority of them are living on a really limited income,” said Chuck Doherty, AARP Tax Counselor and Mansfield Program Coordinator. “These are people with really very simple returns that don’t take us long to process at all, but the $250 or more of processing fees that they would be charged by a big company would have a huge impact on their budget,”
Over the last 15 years, thousands of seniors have taken advantage of the service, an average of 450 each year at the Mansfield location alone. Anyone interested can visit the MAC in person or call 817.728.3680 to schedule an appointment.
“The average age of our customer is upper 60s, but we regularly see people well into their 80s and 90s. As children of the Great Depression, they’re incredibly cautious when it comes to the IRS. They can be easily frightened by scammers or these commercials for tax services that threaten scary ideas like the IRS coming for your home; they’ve seen too much they don’t want to take any risks,” said Doherty. “We’re able to offer them a safe and trust worthy option, at absolutely no charge, to be sure their taxes are done correctly, by a professional. Many of them don’t have the computer skills or even access to e-file, and certainly can’t be expected to keep up with the ever-changing complicated tax laws. It’s an easy thing for us to offer, but it can make a world of difference to the people we serve.”